St John the Baptist Church, Rochdale

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St John's Church
St John the Baptist Church
St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, Rochdale by Mike Berrell.jpg
Coordinates: 53°36′41″N 2°09′18″W / 53.6113°N 2.1549°W / 53.6113; -2.1549
OS grid referenceSD8985112760
LocationRochdale, Greater Manchester
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationRoman Catholic
DedicationJohn the Baptist
Functional statusParish church
Heritage designationGrade II* listed[1]
Designated15 September 1998[2]
Architect(s)Henry Oswald Hill and Ernest Bower Norris
StyleByzantine Revival
ParishSt Gabriel and the Angels and St John the Baptist
DeanerySt Thérèse of Lisieux[3]

St John the Baptist Church is a Roman Catholic Parish church in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England. It was founded in 1830, and built in 1927. It is situated on the corner of Maclure Road and Dowling Street, opposite the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum in the centre of the town. It was built in the Byzantine Revival style and is a Grade II* listed building.[1]



From 1824, a Catholic priest resided in Rochdale. He was Fr William Turner, who later became Bishop of Salford. Originally, Mass was said in a room of a warehouse on Clegg Street. In 1829, St John's Church church was built and opened on Ann Street in Rochdale. Fr Turner was priest until 1835, when he became the priest at St Chad's Church in Cheetham Hill. He was replaced by a Fr Dowling. In 1860, this church was replaced by one made of brick. In 1871, Fr Dowling died and was replaced by a dean, Fr O'Neill.[4] In the late 1800s, as the towns were increasing in population, further Catholic missions were started in the surrounding area. From 1898 to 1937, the priest at St John the Baptist Church was Canon Henry Chipp.[5]



Canon Chipp sought the construction of a new, larger church to replace the one made of brick. He wanted a church to resemble the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.[1] The architect of St John the Baptist Church was Henry Oswald Hill. He was the cousin of Charles Joseph Gadd the Vicar General of the diocese. The design of the church was influenced by Westminster Cathedral and John Francis Bentley. On 21 October 1917, after making the designs for the church, Hill was killed in action during World War One flying as a captain in No. 52 Squadron RAF.[6] He also designed St Teresa's Church in Irlam in 1900, St Brigid's Church in Bradford in 1901, St Alphonsus in Old Trafford in 1903, Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church in Urmston in 1911, and St Joseph's Church in Heywood in 1913.[7]

In 1918, Henry Thomas Sandy bought Hill's architectural firm. In 1920, Ernest Bower Norris joined the practice. In 1922, Sandy died and Norris ran the firm, which became known as Hill, Sandy & Norris, which ceased operations in 1969.[5] St John's Church was the first time Norris had built a Byzantine-style church.[8] From 1962 to 1964, he designed a similar church, St John Fisher Church, in West Heath, West Midlands.[9]

The church was built from 1925 to 1927. The original design for the church had a bell tower, which was never built. From 1930 to 1933, the mosaic in the sanctuary was made. The theme of the mosaic is eternal life. It was designed by Eric Newton of Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, cost £4000 and was made by craftspeople in Manchester.[1][10]

In 1966, a presbytery was built, attached to the north side of the church. The architects for it were Desmond Williams & Associates. In 1998, a residence was added to the side of the church. This was done by demolishing the presbytery and a section of the east transept.[5]


Front entrance, St Gabriel and the Angels Church, Castleton

St John the Baptist Church together with St Gabriel and the Angels Church in Castleton, Greater Manchester, are part of the same parish called the Parish of St Gabriel and the Angels and St John the Baptist. In 1879, St Gabriel and the Angels Church started as a mission from St John the Baptist Church. In 1884, a building housing a chapel and school was built. In 1894, a presbytery was added. In 1951, with the increasing Catholic congregation in the area, the former Princess Cinema in Smalley Street (built in 1900) was bought and adapted to replace the old chapel and became the present St Gabriel and the Angels Church.[11]

St John the Baptist Church has a Sunday Mass at 9:30am.[12] St Gabriel and the Angels Church has one Sunday Mass at 11:00am.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Roman Catholic Church of St John the Baptist from Historic England, retrieved 26 February 2016
  2. ^ Church of St John the Baptist (Roman Catholic), Rochdale from British Listed Buildings, retrieved 11 February 2016
  3. ^ Deanery from St Vincent de Paul Church, Rochdale, retrieved 11 February 2016
  4. ^ Henry Fishwick, The History of the Parish of Rochdale in the County of Lancaster (Rochdale: J. Clegg, 1889), 269.
  5. ^ a b c Rochdale – St John the Baptist from English Heritage, retrieved 11 February 2016
  6. ^ Captain Henry Oswald Hill from Imperial War Museums, retrieved 11 December 2018
  7. ^ Church of St Joseph from Historic England, retrieved 11 December 2018
  8. ^ Robert Proctor, Building the Modern Church: Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain, 1955 to 1975 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 22.
  9. ^ West Heath – St John Fisher from English Heritage, retrieved 26 February 2016
  10. ^ St John the Baptist RC Church from, retrieved 26 February 2016
  11. ^ Rochdale – St Gabriel and the Angels from English Heritage, retrieved 11 February 2016
  12. ^ St John the Baptist Church Archived 2016-02-16 at the Wayback Machine from Rochdale Online, retrieved 11 February 2016
  13. ^ St Gabriel's, Rochdale from Diocese of Salford, retrieved 11 February 2016

External links[edit]